My younger son, Mark, aka Oreo used to write for the Times. Here are some excerpts from the Xmas letter he sent me this year.
…. In a word, Christmas this year was… different.
Spend a month studying curses from the Old Testament, and you’ll find COVID-19 fits right in with the plagues of Exodus–minus the Hebrew slaves.
Travel restrictions, fear of contamination and a toll-free snitch line to the government bylaw Officers, have made this Christmas different for all families in Canada and across the world.
But Christmas in the Elliott Tribe has been markedly different this year for a non-COVID reason. This was the first Christmas in my 46 years without my mom, Norma. She’s had a few monikers in her time. Some names, she’s loved. My cousins Jas and Manny dubbed her, “Mommy Norma,” because Aunty Norma just didn’t say enough. It was more than a little confusing to their girlfriends. “This is my mom, Tess, and this is my Mommy Norma,” they’d say, followed by the explanation, “It’s an Asian thing.”
To my nieces, it was “Lala.” This was an attempt at my niece, Emily, trying to use a very Filipino form of address, Lola, while Teletubbies was on the TV multiple hours of the day. Guess who her favourite Teletubby was? You guessed it. Big sister Amanda reinforced it, so Lola became Lala. By the time younger sister Chloe came around, the name had stuck.
Some names, she tolerated. I remember two nicknames my Dad had to describe Mom. One was “The Tiger Lady,” which came about when mom was fighting to keep our hospital in Rainy River open. Mom didn’t like that one so much. It was replaced by “The Pearl of the Orient,” or just, “The Pearl,” for short, as Dad wrote column after column of Squirrel Pie, often featuring my mother as the long-suffering nurse/wife of an eccentric farmer/salesman. (She tolerated the name—but Norma truly was The Pearl)
There are a lot of things Mom taught me that were unaffected by COVID-19 when it came to Christmas. Like how to celebrate the small things with those in your home. My daughter, Dinah, loves to put up the Christmas decorations, so she led the charge on putting up the tree. She also baked a few dozen gingerbread men cookies for her and her big sister, Abigail, to decorate.
Those cookies didn’t make it until Christmas, by the way.
I made spring rolls. Lots of them. Thousands of the little things. I’ve belonged to the same small group throughout the entire pandemic. We’ve learned to pull together and support one another. They deserved spring rolls. Other friends who weren’t doing as well during the pandemic as I was, who were going stir crazy during the second lockdown here in Manitoba. They got spring rolls, too. On top of that, people would pay me to make spring rolls for them, which covered the cost of the ones I gave away as gifts. One friend who received spring rolls as a gift said, “When you’re making another batch, can I buy some more off of you? This is going to be gone pretty quick.”
And for the first time in nine years, I had both of my daughters home for Christmas Eve. I actually have COVID to thank. So in true Norma Elliott fashion, I went to work. The turkey was 14 pounds, stuffed with, well, stuffing. The potatoes were mashed, the gravy was thick, and spring rolls were fried to perfection. My youngest ate herself into a near comatose state, saying,
“I couldn’t help it… Daddy’s food is so tasty, it’s easy to eat too much.”
“Did you have enough?” I replied. “Have more!”
In heaven, I’m pretty sure Mom smiled at that.
As Christmas of 2020 comes to a close, I realize one inescapable truth: my mom is still with me at Christmas. I can’t call her on the phone, true, but in all the important things, I celebrate Christmas as if my mom is standing right behind me–because she was the one who taught me what the important things to celebrate are. And in that way, Christmas isn’t so different after all.
Trust you had a Merry Christmas, every one. And a Covid free New Year.
–The Winnipeg Elliott aka Oreo aka Junior #2